Min on the hat-trick trail in John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown

Limited crowd to witness Altior’s return to action at Sandown in Tingle Creek Chase

Paul Townend riding Min  clear of the last to win The Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last March. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Paul Townend riding Min clear of the last to win The Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last March. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

Hat-trick seeker Min heads 11 in contention for the John Durkan Punchestown Memorial Chase.

Willie Mullins’s nine-year-old has bagged Sunday’s two-and-a-half-mile feature on his seasonal bow in each of the last two campaigns.

Min, winner of the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on his last start back in March, is one of five entries for Mullins – along with fellow Rich Ricci-owned runner Chacun Pour Soi, who proved too good in the Dublin Chase last term before having to sidestep Cheltenham.

The Cheveley Park-owned Allaho, third in the RSA Chase in March, is another Mullins possible – as well as narrow Marsh Novices’ Chase second Melon and Tornado Flyer, who was fifth in that race and already has a run under his belt this term.

Samcro emerged victorious in the Marsh for Gordon Elliott – and the much-touted eight-year-old is in this weekend’s potential field following his third place behind re-opposing stablemate Battleoverdoyen at Down Royal.

Joseph O’Brien could also be double-handed with dual Grade One-winning novice Le Richebourg a possible to have his first start since February 2019, while stablemate Mortal has already run five times this season.

Also in the line-up is the Henry de Bromhead-trained Chris’s Dream, who was edged into second in Down Royal’s Champion Chase on his return – a race in which another possible contender, Noel Meade’s Tout Est Permis, finished third.

Allaho, Chacun Pour Soi, Le Richebourg and Melon all have an alternative entry on Sunday in Cork’s Grade Two Kerry Group Hilly Way Steeplechase, over an extended two miles.

Limited crowd

Meanwhile, Nicky Henderson is pleased a limited crowd will be on track at Sandown to witness Altior’s return to action in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.

Altior remains one of the biggest draws in National Hunt racing, and the master of Seven Barrows believes his stable star has an inkling he is very good himself.

However, Henderson must hope for a better result on Saturday than on Altior’s seasonal debut last year when he suffered his one and only defeat in 21 races over obstacles, to Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname at Ascot.

“Altior likes a crowd,” said Henderson.

“He knows what they are there for – otherwise he’d think it was just a racecourse gallop like he had the other day, although there was more press and media there that day than there had been on any other day since racing returned.

“It will be nice for him. He enjoys atmospheres and he’s a horse who thinks he’s quite smart, so if there are any admirers there it will be great.

“It’s always been the objective to start here, and if it stayed dry for the week it would help us. He’s been enjoying himself – he had that gallop at Newbury with [champion hurdler] Epatante, which obviously made it quite a good gallop.

“We don’t want a repeat of last season’s debut – I think you can call it a debacle. If I could have done I’d have taken him out on the morning of the race, but there had been such amazing hype before it, and I dare say the crowd had been boosted by the fact Cyrname and Altior were meeting.”

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